Alex Katz

West Window (1979)

About this artwork

Two classic painterly genres are united in this small study: portraiture and landscape. Katz captures the contrast between interior and exterior light, whilst the informal, cropped composition recalls Edouard Vuillard’s intimiste paintings. Katz has been painting portraits of his family and friends in New York since the 1950s; these are now seen as precursors of Pop Art. Often grand in scale, they have a slick finish and detached manner with undercurrents of melancholia. Small oil paintings such as this one are sketched from life and often intended to be scaled up into larger works, but their economic execution and visible brushstrokes reveal an intimate side to his practice. He says, "A sketch is very direct. It is working empirically, inside of an idea."

see media
  • title: West Window
  • accession number: AR00003
  • artist: Alex KatzAmerican (born 1927)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • date created: 1979
  • measurements: 19.60 x 23.80 x 0.30 cm (framed: 21.60 x 25.60 x 3.40 cm)
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
  • copyright: © Alex Katz
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

Alex Katz

Alex Katz

Brooklyn born Katz emerged as a figurative artist when abstract expressionism was the reigning style. He studied at Cooper Union School of Art, New York, from 1946-9, before completing a scholarship in Skowhegen, Maine. While Katz has experimented with collage and printmaking, it is for his distinctive painting style, which pre-empted the birth of Pop Art, that he is best known. Primarily working from life, he produces images in which line and form are expressed through carefully composed strokes and planes of flat colour. He predominantly paints landscapes, portraits and figure compositions. Although he has continued to make small paintings as studies, from the 1960s his work grew in size to a scale more associated with abstract expressionism than realist painting.